Reflective Summary: Who are we online?

Before I started to research into the topic, I already had an opinion on online identities. I found the topic more relatable in today’s society than last week. For example, the idea of ‘catfishing’ was one that I saw mentioned in the majority of blog posts that I read. Whilst it is a good example of someone having multiple online identities, I think it proves how common the danger of catfishing is now.

Arthur’s comment on my blog post broadened my initial perceptions on the topic. I followed my first thoughts and researched into them. Arthur’s comment suggested other factors that having more than one online identity posed. Ones that I hadn’t looked into in depth. Reading all of the other blog posts, showed that these factors such as cyberbullying or ‘trolling’ was another prominent issue in today’s world. I just hadn’t considered this as much.

After acknowledging this, I questioned Davina on the subject. She had suggested that anonymity can provide comfort so that users can express their feelings with confidence. Again, this was another idea that I hadn’t considered in my post. After thinking about this concept, I concluded that ‘trolls’ use anonymity more than someone just seeking comfort. Or perhaps trolls were just more obvious when I was scrolling through online.

After reading Emma’s response to my comment, which addressed personal versus professional profiles, I realised that every person has a different approach to how they manage their online identities. For example, Emma is very keen on keeping a divide between these two partial identities whereas I have managers from my old job on my personal accounts.

From this, I think is where problems may occur. After all, people have the freedom to express themselves however they want online. Its a personal choice to remain anonymous or not for example. Therefore, I fail to see how we can begin to reduce the negatives of having more than one identity.



Online Identity

“on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog”

(Krotoski, 2012)

To me, this phrase summarises the endless possibilities that the internet provides us with. The internet allows us to create as many social ‘identities’ as we want. Essentially, an online identity is the set of characteristics that define you online and make you distinguishable from other users. Each different representation of you online is known as a partial identity (, 2016). I have illustrated mine below.




For many of us, an example of our online identity, would be our real life Facebook profiles. However, out of the 1.71 billion monthly active Facebook users (Noyes, 2016), how many of these are authentic? Profiles that are considered authentic, are tied to the account holders real name and they upload real life images of themselves. The television show Catfish springs to mind. Do you know for certain who you are talking to online? The presenters seek out fake social media profiles that are used to engage online relationships with ‘authentic’ users. This obviously raises a huge security issue.

However, the option to create an anonymous identity online can actually be a positive. One of my first thoughts on the topic was the organisation Anonymous.

This act against terrorism was only possible due to the anonymous nature of the hackers. If their real identities were used then they would have been targeted by ISIS. This shows in some instances, having more than one online identity, is actually extremely beneficial.

Perhaps, these are extreme examples. The reality for many users with multiple online identities is to establish boundaries between their personal and professional life. Warburton (2012) points out that having multiple identities means you can adopt a different persona, different levels and types of control and regulate your behaviour accordingly. A teacher may set up a Twitter page to interact with students and share topic related posts. This same teacher may also have a personal Twitter page, most likely set to private, to communicate with friends. There would be a huge difference in the content of these online identities, despite being linked to the same person.

For future thought, Casserly’s blog (2011) proposed that having so many partial identities actually affects you offline, making it extremely difficult to become a real person. The term ‘real’ used here is perhaps the problem. Offline, which identity actually are we? My only real response to this, is that each partial identity that we leave online is a representation of one side of our personality.


ANONYMOUS (2016) Anonymous to strike back & severely punish ISIS after Brussels attack. Available at: (Accessed: 26 October 2016).

Casserly, M. (2011) ‘Multiple personalities and social media: The many faces of me’, Forbes, 26 January. Available at: (Accessed: 27 October 2016). (2016). Online Identity Overview | Internet Society. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2016].

Krotoski, A. (2012). Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].

Noyes, D. (2016) Top 20 Facebook statistics. Available at: (Accessed: 27 October 2016).

Warburton, S. and Hatzipanagos, S. (2012) Digital identity and social media. Boca Raton, FL, United States: Information Science Reference.


Reflection: Do we need more?


The topic of Digital visitors and residents posed many hurdles, despite the concepts themselves being fairly unchallenging to understand. The stand out factor when comparing everyone’s blog posts was the lack of variety between them all. I think that whilst White and Cornu’s concept is a nice starting point, there is a lack of further research. The concepts need to be developed in order to provide more evidence. I think that if this was the case, then we may have seen more variety in blog posts and different students would have focused on different aspects of the extended research.

Emma’s comment on my blog post was extremely thought provoking and proposed one possible path in which researchers could investigate. The question was to consider whether in the future, due to technological advancements, would everyone be a resident? Whilst there is no evidence to support this, I think that perhaps the increasing use of technology would only cement the divide between residents and visitors. Those who use technology only when necessary, due to age or financial means for example, would only be left behind.

I thought that Alice’s blog used very relatable examples to open the blog, which engaged me as the reader. For someone who had never studied the topic before, reading Alice’s post would have enabled them to clearly identify themselves on the continuum.

The other blog I commented on was Nicole’s. She shares the opinion that Prensky’s theories are becoming out of date and stated that some younger people that she knows do not like using the web. This goes completely against the theory and again opens up another area for researchers to explore. This asks the question as to whether we need more research to form a solid argument on the topic.

Topic One: Digital Visitors and Residents

The terms Digital “visitors” and “residents” have only recently been introduced by White, Manton and Le Cornu (2011). The intent of their paper was to replace Prensky’s existing terms that divided web users into “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” (2009).

A “digital native” refers to an individual that was born into a digital era. They are able to use technology with ease as they have learned how in the same way that they learn their own language.

A “digital immigrant” refers to an individual of an older generation and was born prior to the digital age. Their use of technology is not innate and is similar to learning a second language.

David White’s video on Youtube explains all of these terms in depth to give a better understanding.

It is impossible to presume that all young people are digital natives and to presume that all older people are unable to use technology, as Prensky’s terms would suggest. In fact, there is very little evidence that young people are radically different in the ways they use and process information (Bennet et al., 2008). The empirical evidence to suggest that an adults brain structure is different to a young person who uses technology is lacking and Prensky recognises this himself.

White and Le Cornu’s system places each web user on a continuum between being a complete “visitor” versus being a complete “resident”. Every user, dependent on the context, will use the web as both types of user at some point in their lives.

A “digital visitor” refers to an individual that uses the web for a purpose and will come back offline once they have found what they were searching for. For example, when booking a holiday. When using the web as a visitor, “we leave behind no social trace of ourselves online” (White, D 2013).

A “digital resident” refers to an individual that sees the web as an opportunity to build an identity and communicate with other people. This use of the web “does leave behind a social trace” (White, D 2013). For example, a user on social media networks.


In my experience of being a web user, I would argue that my social presence online falls closer to the characteristics of a digital resident. I post to my own personal community on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Before starting this blog, my professional presence online was firmly that of a visitor. However, now this has shifted along the continuum closer to the resident end of the spectrum.






Helsper, Ellen and Eynon, Rebecca (2009) Digital natives: where is the evidence? British educational research journal. pp. 1-18.

Prensky, M., 2001. MCB University Press Volume 9 (5). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.

White, D. S., 2013. YouTube video on ‘Dave White’s channel named ‘Visitors and Residents’.

White, D., and Le Cornu, A,L. (2011) ‘Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement’. First Monday, 16 (9), [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 12 October 2016]


Who am i?

I am currently a BSC Marketing student at the University of Southampton, with ambition to extend my online profile.

My current view on UOSM2033:

I have never maintained a blog before and the concept both excites and terrifies me at the same time! The opportunities that could arise from having a blog are endless, from job opportunities to a post going viral. However, it is these same benefits that are making me apprehensive. Knowing that anyone, regardless of their location, could read one of my blog posts presents a drive for perfection. Although, realistically everyone has their own opinion and it is impossible to think that everyone from different backgrounds will agree with my blog post.

I have completed my self test that shows my current understanding of the different aspects that are involved with living and working on the web. I intend to reflect back on this at the end of the module to review my progression.

What I hope to learn:

During this module I hope to develop my online network professionally. With this expansion, I hope to differentiate between my professional and social online presence. This separation will hopefully be easier to establish after completing this course. Finally, I hope to gain an understanding and view on many key online terms and be able to critically discuss them with my peers.